Wolf – Shadowland – Album Review

Artist: Wolf

Album Title: Shadowland

Label: Century Media Records

Date of Release: 1 April 2022

It seems quite inconceivable, but it’s a fact that ‘Shadowland’, the ninth studio album from Swedish metal band Wolf is the first that I have ever reviewed. For more than 25 years, theirs is a name that has been familiar with fans of classic heavy metal and old school power metal. I have heard their music, of course, but I’ve never felt compelled enough to delve into one of their records and give it the time and attention that I offer to many other bands out there. Given that 2022 is a year where I’m throwing myself into the deep end all over the place, I felt that now was the time to dive in properly and hear what I’ve been largely missing over the years.

By and large, I find myself quite impressed actually, the quartet hitting a nostalgic sweet spot that blends the metal of the likes of Dio, with Judas Priest, a touch of Mercyful Fate theatrics, and a dose of Euro power metal, albeit not from the more over-the-top Helloween-style end of the playbook. The music is a lot of fun as a result, but you also have to have a reasonable tolerance to a bit of cheese, because Wolf’s music is smothered in it. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing of course, just an observation and a warning if you’re allergic to such things.

When I first listened to ‘Shadowland’, I was in a foul mood. I was late for an appointment, I kept getting stuck behind slow-moving cars and tractors on the small, winding country roads along which I was driving and, on the return journey I hit a pothole, causing me to have to stop off and have two new tyres fitted to my car. It was not a good day, and I did not like what I was hearing from ‘Shadowland’ either. I nearly gave up and abandon any thoughts of a review, but something made me return for a second run through. I’m glad I did because a) it proved beyond doubt that your mood can easily affect your opinion of music, and b) it has led to a greater understanding and appreciation for what Wolf have created here.

Once the hooks and melodies start to have an effect, this album takes on a whole new meaning. Just take the opening track, ‘Dust’ as a prime example. It did nothing for me on a first listen, but when I listen for the umpteenth time, I can’t understand why it didn’t immediately resonate with me. The riffs are vibrant and on the attack from the start, whilst it skips along at a nice pace led by Johan Koleberg’s forceful drumming, with Niklas Stålvind’s vocals full of energy too. And the melodies are so strong, with hooks so sharp, you’ll be singing it in your sleep.

Wolf. Bilder skivsläpp. Bilder: Per Knutsson.

The pace is maintained with ‘Visions For The Blind’ which features a gloriously infectious chorus to juxtapose the driving riffing from guitarists Stålvind and Simon Johansson that features within the verses. Even the bass of Pontus Egberg makes the necessary impact within an overall production that, whilst clear and strong, has a retro feel about it, ideal for the music that Wolf create here.

If I had a criticism or two, they both feature within ‘The Time Machine’. An otherwise great, brooding track is undermined slightly by its length which, at over six minutes, makes it feel a little bloated. It also highlights the rather toe-curling nature of the lyrics that can emerge on the album. The chorus is fab, but the lyrics are a little ham-fisted and cheesy. It isn’t a negative that plagues every song, and neither is the issue with track lengths. Both feature, but it isn’t an epidemic, more an occasional outbreak that can largely be forgiven.

Back to the highlights, and the ultra-melodic NWoBHM flavour of ‘Evil Lives’ is definitely one of them. It’s a shorter, snappier composition and it’s a wonderful three-and-a-half minutes of classic metal excess. I also happen to rather enjoy the title track thanks mainly to some muscular guitar riffs, and a chorus that I find myself singing incessantly, long after the album has finished playing. Then there’s the more dramatic, theatrical ‘The Ill-Fated Mr. Mordrake’ that benefits from yet more heavy riffing, dark atmosphere, and a slightly more progressive edge, caused by the frequent shifts in direction within the song, not to mention a stand-out performance from bassist Egberg. You’ve got to love the cheesiness of a track like ‘Rasputin’ to, especially with the pronunciation delivered by Stålvind within the catchy chorus.

The more I listen to Shadowland, the more I find myself liking it. There is definitely something very endearing about this music, as well as being catchy and memorable. Perhaps it’s the nostalgic element of the record, or perhaps it’s because these four Swedes have become incredibly proficient at penning great heavy metal songs. Maybe, just maybe, it’s a combination of both of these elements that have come together on ‘Shadowland’ to create such a proficient record. Whatever the reason, I’m confident that existing fans will not be left disappointed, and that the Wolf name will remain strong for the foreseeable future.

The Score of Much Metal: 87%

Check out my other 2022 reviews here:

Denali – Denali EP

Centinex – The Pestilence EP

Meshuggah – Immutable

Chapter Of Hate – Bloodsoaked Decadence EP

Ancient Settlers – Our Last Eclipse

Tranzat – Ouh La La

Playgrounded – The Death Of Death

Father Befouled – Crowned In Veneficum

Abbath – Dread Reaver

PreHistoric Animals – The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter 2)

Kvaen – The Great Below

Michael Romeo – War Of The Worlds, Part 2

Dark Funeral – We Are The Apocalypse

Carmeria – Advenae

Agathodaimon – The Seven

Moonlight Haze – Animus

Hellbore – Panopticon

Konvent – Call Down The Sun

Idol Of Fear – Trespasser

The Midgard Project – The Great Divide

Threads Of Fate – The Cold Embrace Of The Light

Arkaik – Labyrinth Of Hungry Ghosts

New Horizon – Gate Of The Gods

Cailleach Calling – Dreams Of Fragmentation

Tundra – A Darkening Sky

Sylvaine – Nova

Hath – All That Was Promised

Sabaton – The War To End All Wars

Kuolemanlaakso – Kuusumu

Oh Hiroshima – Myriad

Godless Truth – Godless Truth

Shape Of Despair – Return To The Void

Eight Bells – Legacy Of Ruin

Embryonic Devourment – Heresy Of The Highest Order

Serious Black – Vengeance Is Mine

Allegaeon – Damnum

HammerFall – Hammer Of Dawn

Immolation – Acts Of God

Veonity – Elements Of Power

Nightrage – Abyss Rising

Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s Star One – Revel In Time

Pure Wrath – Hymn To The Woeful Hearts

Dagoba – By Night

The Last Of Lucy – Moksha

Arð – Take Up My Bones

Embryonic Autopsy – Prophecies Of The Conjoined

The Devils Of Loudun – Escaping Eternity

Cult Of Luna – The Long Road North

WAIT – The End Of Noise

Abysmal Dawn – Nightmare Frontier

Amorphis – Halo

Nordic Giants – Sybiosis

Persefone – Metanoia

Vorga – Striving Toward Oblivion

Mystic Circle – Mystic Circle

Nasson – Scars

Burned In Effigy – Rex Mortem

Silent Skies – Nectar

Celeste – Assassine(s)

Abyssus – Death Revival

SOM – The Shape Of Everything

Ashes Of Ares – Emperors And Fools

Beriedir – AQVA

Lalu – Paint The Sky

Nocturna – Daughters Of The Night

Battle Beast – Circus Of Doom

Lee McKinney – In The Light Of Knowledge

Descent – Order Of Chaos

Aethereus – Leiden

Toundra – Hex

Ilium – Quantum Evolution Event EP

Power Paladin – With The Magic Of Windfyre Steel

Necrophagous – In Chaos Ascend

Infected Rain – Ecdysis

Wilderun – Epigone

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2021 reviews

2020 reviews

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

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